Etude Stinks!

Heather said: May 5, 2009
Heather Turvey
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
3 posts

I am looking for a copy of an article that ran in the Minijournal during the 2000 summer institutes. It was titled “Etude Stinks!” and was written by Eve Montgomery Riley. My copy is only a partial; part of it got cut out because of an order form printed on the back. I have a student that at one time proclaimed, “I hate Etude!” and now she has chosen it as her recital piece this year!

If anyone has a copy of this article, it would be greatly appreciated!


Heather Turvey

Ruth Brons said: Sep 7, 2009
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Orange, NJ
150 posts

No one came up with “Etude Stinks!” yet? It sounds like such a must-have article!

As a younger teacher my students’ progress too often came to a screeching halt at Etude. Over the years
I have come to explain it as a G major scale in disguise, and the students enjoy going on a “scale hunt” to find the three one octave G Major scales that Dr. Suzuki has hidden in there for them to find. So the first lesson they find and practice the scales, and learn the first two measures. This way the students lose their fear of the piece, as they are now friends with the beginning, the end, and two places in the middle. Then the rest of the piece practically teaches itself, especially if I continue the system I start in the previous two pieces of circling the finger numbers of the D string notes.

But, I am still curious about “Etude Stinks!”

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Bow Hold Buddies[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessory for violin/viola, and
CelloPhant[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessory for cello

said: Sep 9, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
120 posts

“Etude Stinks!” was in the summer 2000 minijournal. Last fall I bought a bunch of old copies of minijournals to give out to my students and their families a little at a time.

I just passed this particular one out at group class last Saturday!

I bet these minijournals are still available from the SAA online—some are .01!!

Hope that helps. :)

Ruth Brons said: Sep 9, 2009
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Orange, NJ
150 posts

I think I’ll do a shopping spree right now!

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Bow Hold Buddies and CelloPhant Instant Bow Hold bow accessories

Laura said: Sep 10, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

For some odd reason, we (child/parent combo) never had problems with Etude, although as a musician I can certainly appreciate how this piece can be frustrating for some to learn and memorize due to its highly irregular structure.

I’m curious if certain types of people have an easier time with Etude than others, for example based on learning style. Any insight from experienced teachers on this?

Aparna Asthana said: Sep 10, 2009
13 posts

Hi I am not a teacher but this thread is interesting bc of my son’s experience with Etude. So I thought I would share. DS began Etude over December 2008. Our teacher spent an entire lesson going over the structure with me…highlighted parts and we came up with a system of cards to show parts and try to get my son to learn the song in parts this way. At home when I tried this system (our teacher told me that this song causes a lot of frustration and if I adopted this method from the beginning my son would have the least trouble so I was very methodical) my son comletely balked! It was two horrible practices of tears and not understanding anything. He kept telling me that the note cards and system was messing him up and to leave him alone to play the notes.

He disappeared in his room…listened to Etude about 3 times…pausing and rewinding to hear sections and came back and said he saw the song in his head. He picked up the violin and played through the song….notes were not all correct but the structure of the song was definitely in place. Once he had that he went back and plugged in the missing/incorrect notes and fingers. In about 3 days he had the song. He ASKED to and performed it for a recital a month later. He had kids in book 2 and 3 telling him that they could not have been bribed to play Etude at a recital! He loves Etude and cannot understand what the fuss is about….his favorite thing to do is to play the doubles as fast as he can.
My Etude “epiphany” as I refer to this episode was that I finally accepted that my son sometimes learns things unconventionally and long as we give him some room to do it his way he actually learns easier with a good end result. We started note reading recently and he wants nothing to do with flash cards…he has his own method and as long he is doing his page a day of reading well I don’t care. And my son is pretty average as a learner and has his share of challenges…has ADD so he does learn differently. Etude was a huge moment for ME as a parent so I had to jump into this post….Sorry!

said: Sep 10, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
120 posts

Thanks for posting that story! I loved it—what a great testament to how unique each child is, particularly in how they learn. From your story, I admire your son’s confidence in knowing what learning style suits him best. To me, that is terrific. (just curious, how old is your son?)

As a teacher I have tried something similar to your teacher’s method to help students and parents with the structure of Etude. It’s worked well for some students and wasn’t necessary for others. Sometimes I wonder if we teachers might not try just letting students and parents approach learning Etude like any other piece before we get into tearing it apart into different sections with cards or stories, etc. On the other hand, for those students that have needed it, the cards to represent different sections (or, different parts of the “story”) have worked well.

I have one student, now about to graduate book 4, who couldn’t wait to learn Etude, and it’s still one of his favorite pieces. There seems to be something about the repetitiveness and structure of the piece that he thoroughly enjoys. :)

Michelle said: Sep 10, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
25 posts

That is so neat to hear a child say they “see the song in their head.” What a wonderful self awareness. I love it when my students can tell me things like that.

I generally teach “pattern 1″ BDGA, and then “pattern 2″ CDAB, and give them one week of plucking those so they don’t have to worry about string crossings while learning notes. When we add the bow, I am very particular about the string crossings being correct. I strongly dislike the sound of messy string crossings. After they are comfortable with the patterns, I will introduce the “transitions” BDCB and CEDC. I have them try to find the scales. That’s generally enough to help their memory.

I did have one student who didn’t like Etude very much until we made it animals. He played it fine and had it memorised, but I wanted him to play a little slower. He was familiar with the Carnival of the Animals book with neat stories and pictures to match the animals. I asked him what it would sound like if it were a turtle and he played with good weight and not too fast. We then explored elephants, cats chasing things, birds, and anything else he could come up with. He ended up choosing to play two different animals of Etude at the recital rather than one of the Minuets. It is now one of his favourite pieces. For reference, he is 5.

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Jennifer Visick said: Sep 11, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

I’ve had a few students who like Etude but most are on the side of disliking, or hating it.

We may call it a “piece”- but it’s an ETUDE—the only one in the book that’s not in disguise. It’s brilliant for teaching a certain finger pattern. What it’s not is great art.

Barb said: Sep 11, 2009
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

It will be interesting to see what happens when I get to teach this to my cello students.

When I learned it on violin when I was 9 or 10 I loved it! Especially the variation. I don’t know why. I kind of remember the teacher making it a challenge and I suppose that sparked my competitive nature a bit… it was a school group class, I don’t think I was taking private lessons yet (but I’m not sure at what point I started private lessons). He was great with kids and making things fun (and also my private teacher).

I more or less gave up violin shortly after starting book four (at age 11) and switched to cello. I still enjoy playing it on the violin more than cello. I don’t know about when I learned it, but now when I play it I hear it as melody and accompaniment played together—something like counterpoint. Maybe the teacher had us accenting beats one and three?


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Jennifer said: Sep 26, 2009
Jennifer Moberg PforteViolin, Viola
Islamabad`, Pakistan
71 posts

I used to have a really difficult time teaching this until I picked out the recurring patterns. I have my students playing G major 2 octave scale well before Etude, so they are already prepared with their C and G naturals, as well as their understanding of what a scale is. The trick with Etude and the patterns is to leave out the first note until all patterns are mastered:

Dr. Gordon: DGAB
Dr. Arthur: DABC
Great Wall of China: GBDG
Disneyland: DF#AA

D down the scale: DCBA and DCBAGFEDCBAG
E down the scale: EDCB
F down the scale: FEDCBAGF
G down the scale: GFEDCBAG

Once these patterns are mastered, put them together as follows:
2 Gordons/ D down the scale/ 3 Arthurs/ E down the scale
3 Gordons/ D down the scale/ 3 Arthurs/ E down the scale
Great Wall of China/ F down the scale
Disneyland/ G down the scale
3 Gordons/ D down the scale all the way to G

Etude used to take some of my students months. Now it takes 1-2 weeks, with excellent preparation for the patterns that show up in Bach.

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

said: Oct 5, 2009
 3 posts

I think many children who dislike etude aren’t alone. The piece is a pain but once you get it down it is easy as squat. Most of these children are scared to try it because it is overwhelming but they will realize it is quite a nice piece. I, being a student in book four currently can relate to their problems :shock:[code][/code]

Heather said: Dec 16, 2009
Heather Turvey
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
3 posts

Thank you, thank you, thank you to traim for your post! I went shopping and bought copies of all the minijournals available online. Can’t wait to get them and hand them out to my students!

I don’t normally get too much resistance on Etude. I point out in the beginning it is, in fact, a study. We also go over all the scale and arpeggio patterns hiding in the music. By the time they are finished with it, most of my students play it ad nauseum and the parents are ready for something new! It’s rare that I get a student that really objects to playing it, but on the occasions that I do, what a boon this article will be!

Now if I can only find the short story about the pinky finger…. ;-)

Heather Turvey

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